Something that is poignant touches you deeply. Watching a poignant YouTube video about baby penguins chasing their mothers, for example, might give you a lump in your throat.
Poignant comes from the Latin pungere “to prick,” the same root as pungent. But something that’s pungent pricks your sense of smell, whereas poignant refers to something that pricks your emotions, especially in a melancholy way. Movie critics might describe a touching portrayal as poignant if there isn’t a dry eye in the house.
How is the word poignant distinct from other similar adjectives?
Some common synonyms of poignant are affecting, impressive, moving, pathetic, and touching. While all these words mean “having the power to produce deep emotion,” poignant applies to what keenly or sharply affects one’s sensitivities.
a poignant documentary on the homeless
How do affecting and moving relate to one another, in the sense of poignant?
Affecting is close to moving but most often suggests pathos.
an affecting deathbed reunion
When can impressive be used instead of poignant?
In some situations, the words impressive and poignant are roughly equivalent. However, impressive implies compelling attention, admiration, wonder, or conviction.
an impressive list of achievements
In what contexts can moving take the place of poignant?
Although the words moving and poignant have much in common, moving may apply to any strong emotional effect including thrilling, agitating, saddening, or calling forth pity or sympathy.
a moving appeal for contributions
When might pathetic be a better fit than poignant?
The words pathetic and poignant can be used in similar contexts, but pathetic implies moving to pity or sometimes contempt.
pathetic attempts to justify misconduct
When is touching a more appropriate choice than poignant?
While in some cases nearly identical to poignant, touching implies arousing tenderness or compassion.
the touching innocence in a child’s eyes